BTL's Chairman and CEO held a rare press conference today to reject the BNTU's claim that DIGI is a tax dodger.
IT also gave us the opportunity to talk about a long rumoured acquisition by BTL. For years now, there's been a proposal before the board to acquire Belize's largest cable provider, CTI - which is Central Television and Internet.
The Chairman says that it makes sense for BTL because it optimises their infrastructure true and will allow them to make a more complete offering to customers - and they are studying the possibility of an acquisition:
"If you could discuss whether BTL plans to purchase or acquire CTI Cable and Internet, that's been in discussion for a couple of years. Is that proposed sale moving closer to completion?"
Mark Lizzaraga, Chairman, BTL
"Since 2016 BTL had acquire this huge capacity, the fiber to the homes. We've invested a lot of money in that and we don't have anything really of substance to fill it, we have humongous capacity and we are using this much of that capacity. The previous board had commissioned several studies in a very fragmented manner and made several decisions. At one time, it would do this and then they didn't do it - subsequent to that, it made another study, they do something - they never did it. The position of the new board is that it's going to do its own homework, its own study and we are in the process of procuring that study so that we can look at the current facts."
Will Digi Buy PM Family’s Cable CompanyAnd in this analysis of cable acquisitions - the company owned by the Prime Minister's family - Centaur Cable is reported to also be on offer to BTL.
Now, the PM is the minister of public utilities and also appointed Lizarraga to the board. When we asked the Chairman about it today - he did not deny that Centaur could be on the table - but , instead spoke very generally, and said it is a strategic business decision:
"Does DIGI also plans to purchase Centaur Cable which is owned by the Prime Minister's family?"
Mark Lizzaraga, Chairman, BTL
"If you look at the industry worldwide everybody is going for what they called a quad play, that is telephone, internet to the home, mobile and content and what's interesting is that all over the world there are acquisitions, mergers, moves to consolidate because of the technology now and because you can put so much through fiber. It is just more efficient. Unfortunately, we did things a little backwards in Belize in my view. We put in the infrastructure with nothing to put in it. Now we have this asset which we paid a lot of money for, we have to be careful how we go about using it and see if there are partnerships or public/private partnerships or whatever sort of engagement we can entertained to see how we stop the race to the bottom and how we can improve the profitability of the company. BTL, unfortunately needs to improve on its profitability, needs to start paying back you, the owners of this company for that humongous investment that you have in this company. Our mandate in the new board is to see how we can turn the company around so that we can pay back for this substantial investment that you the people of Belize have made."